How I Planned My Byron Bay Wedding Down to the Tiniest Detail

Updated 08/01/18
Shane Sheperd

Four months ago, I got married in Byron Bay surrounded by 80 of my favourite people, and it turns out the clichés are true: It was the best day of my life. It was blissful and romantic and magical and all of those lovely words people use to describe weddings, but really, what made it was that my husband and I (ooh!) managed to pull off a wedding that was 100 percent totally, completely us—Bubble O' Bills and all.

We don’t like doing things the traditional way. We have a long and unconventional story of how we got together and my engagement ring is a tattoo, so it made sense to make a pact when we started planning our wedding that we would do it our way. If I could give just one piece of advice for brides-to-be looking to plan a unique wedding, it would be to dissect every single part, inspect it, and think about how it can be done differently. Don’t mindlessly book a cake because that’s the norm, and don’t listen to silly rules about how many bridesmaids you should have.

If you can keep this in mind, and ignore other people’s opinions, it’s actually a whole lot easier to plan.

Firstly, figure out the really big things: Are you going to have a destination wedding, or a wedding where you live? I opted for a destination wedding, partly because it would be beautiful, and partly because I wanted to force my family and friends into a week of celebrations (it worked, and I highly recommend it).

Do you have a theme? Jump on Google, flip through wedding magazines and stalk other people on social media. From the beginning, we were set on a fun, tropical, pool-party vibe, which helped to determine all my other decisions.

It’s also really important to find a venue and lock it in ASAP, and even with just these two things decided, it narrows down your search drastically. When you’re venue-shopping, cast your net wide to find hidden gems. Websites like WedShedThe Lane and Hello May are all really helpful (for everything, not just venues) but also explore alternatives like AirbnbStayz, online forums and even Facebook statuses. For me, it was rather difficult finding a venue; I looked at close to 15 spaces, and ended up finding it via word-of-mouth.


Shane Sheperd

It's also important to think about how your guests will arrive and—seeing as our venue was in the hinterland, we hired a bright red double-decker bus to collect our guests. We made a playlist of 1960’s love songs and asked them to put a sign on the front that said ‘The Tropical Express’. I later found out the driver was wearing a safari suit. I died! Flex your attention-to-detail muscle and don’t forget the little things.

Of course, there’s the dress. Working in fashion, I thought the hardest part was always going to be the dress. Surprisingly, it was one of the first things I ticked off the list, and I didn’t even have a panic attack. I recently wrote about the unexpected way I found her, thanks to my best friend, Instagram. Again, I didn’t just assume a dress was the only option—that would be silly. Instead, I opted for a big tulle bridal party skirt, and asked my talented fashion-designer friend to make me a top to match.

Next, it was time to choose my bridesmaids. This is an area I struggled with. I spent weeks trying to decide how many was appropriate, until I had a quick pep talk with myself. I asked, “If it wasn’t for other people’s opinions, and their horrified reactions, how many bridesmaids would you have?” The answer was eight, and so that is what I had. I asked my best friends to all wear white and choose whatever style they wanted; some wore dresses, some wore suits, and all of them looked freaking fabulous.

Having eight bridesmaids made no difference other than making the whole day a lot more fun.

Shane Sheperd

Food was another thing that was very important to us because A) we love food, and B) the stock-standard menu was just not going to cut it at a tropical party. We researched, enquired, researched again, until we found a caterer that served coconut prawns, sweetcorn doughnuts, fried chicken with onion rings and steak, served with a surprise apron and carving knife for every 10th guest. Food trucks and tents are also a great, unconventional idea! For the dessert, we ditched the cake and went for Bubble O' Bills and Golden Gaytimes to be served on the dance floor—a very cost effective option that also made for the best photos.

Our venue allowed BYO, so it also meant we could choose our favourite drinks (we got rid of wedding favours in favour of tequila shots at every seat).

Styling and décor is such a huge part of a wedding (especially with a blank canvas venue and a very tight theme) and I’m not going to lie, I did find this time-consuming and stressful. Start this early, with loads of research on companies in your area and moodboards of what you’re going for. In the end though, I found the easiest way was to hire a stylist that could bring my ideas to life, as well as set it up and pack it down for me, because ain’t nobody got time for that. By searching my theme on Etsy and Ebay, I was able to find some perfect final touches—like a disco ball and a pair of hot pink plastic flamingos that welcomed the guests.

The schedule or run sheet is one more thing that’s often overlooked. While a wedding coordinator or photographer usually draws it, don’t be afraid to make your own tweaks. We wanted to do a first look, so we didn’t have to leave the party halfway through for photos—now, this is one of my favourite moments of the day. Look at your speeches, dances and meals: Should your speech be earlier because you’ll be nervous? Do you want more dancing time? Should you add a cheeky late-night feast for your guests?

As the day draws closer, it’s all about finalising the little things and finally, letting go! Give yourself another one of those pep talks and savour every moment of that magical time. In six months, you’ll be wishing that you were back there, agonising over whether your tablecloths should be Eggshell or Dove Grey.

Make planning easier with Blacklist's perfect Wedding Planner ($75). 

Shane Sheperd

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